This post may contain affiliate links, which means I receive a small portion of sales for compensation, at no cost to you. All opinions about any products and/or companies are entirely my own. Thank you for supporting Gentle Vine!
Veganuary. No Shave November. We love to assign challenges to months, making each month a themed adventure of new activities. And now we have Plastic Free July, aimed at one of my favorite topics: reducing excess waste.
Reducing waste has many benefits, reaching both global impact as well as each person individually. Plastic Free July is a perfect time to highlight some easy ways to responsibly reduce waste, with the selfish benefit of compound savings over the course of time.
I recently overheard someone laugh as they throw away a ziplock bag and say “I should care, but the effects of climate change won’t effect me, so I won’t.”
Globally, the European Geosciences Union has estimated that the “point of no return” – the limit where there has been so much damage to the earth from mindless waste that the damage is irreversible – is as soon as 2035 – just 16 years away!
How old will you be in 16 years? Will you have children? How old will they be?
When I was growing up, I heard about global warming, but thought it was a hoax touted by celebrities. But this year as I wore a jacket in June in St. Louis and my entire row of lettuce hasn’t grown enough to create a single side salad, the reality of the shifting global weather crisis is much more of a reality than a far-off idea.
Climate Change Research
Thanks to websites like NASA and educators like Bill Nye The Science Guy, research is all around us, allowing us to understand the severity of the situation, which is made consistently worse by the pollution caused by single-use plastics.
With all these educational opportunities all around us, it brings me literal physical pain to see people wasting plastic resources – especially over and over again. Climate change is happening because of a cumulative effect of millions of people making absent-minded decisions over and over and over again, which create ripples through our agriculture and animal life. Baby sea turtles are dying rapidly because they are eating plastic. Fish that feed on algae are unable to find it because there is too much plastic floating on the surface, so algae can’t grow. Whales and sharks are found dead with bellies full of trash. Plastic disrupts the animal food chain at its very base, but attacks at all levels without hesitation.
So, how can you make a difference in your home? Switching up your patterns for living may seem a bit daunting at first, but I guarantee that once you see not only the benefit to the environment, but also the savings in your wallet, you will be hooked on the plastic-free lifestyle.
5 Easy Ways to Participate in Plastic Free July
1. Stop Buying Ziploc Bags
Plastic bags are one of the worst offenders for ocean pollution. They take several hundreds of years to break down, and we use them once. Once. Is it because we never stopped to think about the impact of our decisions on the environment? Or, like the person I overheard, we don’t think it will effect our particular life, so it doesn’t matter?
Individual use plastic bags are newer to the scene if you really think about it. The brand Ziploc was first introduced in 1968. So for millennia prior, humans have used other things to carry their snack items, prep meals ahead of time, and store miscellaneous trinkets we can’t bear to get rid of just yet.
Instead of ziploc bags, try these options instead:
or go old school and use actual leftover containers – freezer/dishwasher/oven safe
2. Say NO! to Plastic Grocery Bags
Did you know that you can’t throw your grocery bags into the regular recycling containers? They get caught up in the machinery and are actually a hazard. Some grocery stores have donation boxes where, if you have your life together, you drop off your used grocery bags on the way into the store for your next trip.
I am not one of those people, and so I have made my life simpler by using reusable grocery bags.
If you shop at Aldi, you are familiar with this concept, as they charge for both plastic and paper bags, with the hopes that you will reuse them again. This is more my style.
But what is really my style, is this epic invention right here: The Grocery Cart Bags.
These things are an Aldi shopper’s dream, because everything can laid out in the empty “loading” cart and placed directly into the bags.
I have found that there is a method of packing them that reduces strain on both you and the bags. For example, all heavy items (especially bottled beverages) should be in either the blue or the red bags. They are smaller, so have more support for heavier items. Boxed items go in the larger two bags if they are lighter.
I have literally emptied an entire week’s grocery/household shopping trip in one swoop with these bags. I am a fan for LIFE.
Of course, any reusable bag will do for your shopping trips.
If you have a tendency to run in “just for one or two things” and you frequently forget your bag,
these Reusable Shopping Totes in storage bags click easily onto a keychain, so you never forget again.
If you’re feeling especially thrifty, checkout Hello Glow’s easy No-Sew Reusable Grocery Bag from a T-shirt tutorial.
Then of course, there is always the option of going without a bag altogether, and pushing your full grocery cart to your car and unloading it into some sort of tub or something. I just did that today when I realized I left my reusable bags in the car.
3. Drink Tap Water from a Reusable Container
By now I’m sure we’ve all heard that tap water is just as good as bottled water, unless you are into the reverse osmosis method for getting pure drinking water (just don’t forget to re-add in some minerals before drinking).
Not only is tap water cheaper for your wallet in that the actual water itself costs less, you can save thousands of tons of plastic waste by saying no to water bottles. Two years ago, Forbes published an article announcing that globally, humans are consuming a million plastic bottles every minute, and only recycling an estimated 9%.
That means that every minute, 910,000 bottles go to landfills or make an epic journey to the ocean.
54,600,000 per hour.
1,310,400,000 per day.
Just plastic bottles.
Obviously, any cup that you can carry around with you will serve this purpose. I caution here to avoid going to buy something to be “intagram plastic free.” I have yet to meet anyone who didn’t have a stash of random water bottles or tervis cups in an oddly-shaped cabinet somewhere.
However, if you are just starting out and looking for a quality multi-purpose bottle, I suggest the insulated Kleen Kanteen brand. The insulation means your cold drinks stay cold and your hot drinks stay hot. Plus, they are made with stainless steel, which means no harmful chemicals like aluminum or BPA will wind up as your coffee’s secret ingredient.
4. Use Reusable Produce Bags
Let’s be honest here: if we see the rate of plastic bottle waste, just imagine the environmental damage from those little clear or green plastic produce bags. Countless bags wind up in the rivers and oceans, when the truth is, those little suckers aren’t even necessary – they are just convenient.
Say no to these bags by switching to some form of reusable produce bags. I have this set of reusable mesh produce bags, as well as a second set (pro tip: my grocery cart bags came with a set of reusable produce bags!) and I use them every single time I go to the grocery store or farmer’s market.
Again, if you are all about that Reduce, Reuse, Recycle life and are willing to donate some t-shirts to the cause, you could follow the no-sew tutorial for DIY grocery bags.
If you know your way around a crochet hook, you might like this Crocheted Produce Bag (free pattern) from Handy Finch.
5. Use a Washcloth
Like many Americans, you might have a brightly colored loofah hanging in your shower, or several different colors to denote which member of the family it belongs to.
This sounds hygienically sound, because they are replaced every so often and so limit build up of bacteria, but they are made of plastic. So that little poof ball will stay that way for many, many moons.
If you absolutely hate the idea of using a washcloth in your bathing, there are several other options available for you.
Natural sea sponges are often marketed as a baby product because they are so soft and gentle. I love them because they are renewable, and because they are 100% biodegradable. That means you can throw it away or in the compost bin when you are finished. I love this option the most as it means it will not spend the next several hundred years trying to break down and accidentally feed confused baby sea turtles.
So there you have it. 5 easy ways to implement Plastic Free July in 2019.
Plastic Free July, The Easy Route
It can be overwhelming sometimes to try to transition to the new level all alone. That’s why I signed up for Mighty Nest. For over a year, we have received a monthly item (or two, or three or four) shipped directly to our home, for only $11 a month (nothing extra, just $11!). These items have replaced plastic wrap, plastic straws, dryer sheets, glass leftover containers I use every day, and so much more.
To get started today for just $3, sign up for Mighty Nest here, and enter code BEESFIX3 for 2 sheets of Beeswax wrap (to replace your saran wrap), or code DRYERBALL3 for a set of 3 wool dryer balls. They also have an entire store with items you can add on to your monthly deliveries, and there is always free shipping.
Honestly, the majority of my most-used products in my daily kitchen life are from my Mighty Nest subscription. It’s one item that makes it through every round of my “how much can I slash the budget?” games.
Plastic Free July is about raising awareness – for both how easy it is to go without plastic, and also to understand the incredible impact our daily decisions have on the outcome of our planet.
How will you participate in Plastic Free July this year? Leave me a comment and let me know!
If you found this helpful, don’t forget to share!